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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Barmaids a go-go

London's annual Erotica exhibition at Olympia is a trade show for adult products and anything of related interest (including toffee vodka, wedding dresses, hairclips, designer furniture, wall insulation, home-made sausages ...). There is something of a party atmosphere there, the focus is on women, and visitors are encouraged to dress in something sexy and attractive. This year the organisers wanted to provide a more obvious focus for the LGBT communities, including a transgender bar. T-Girls across the UK jumped at the chance and, after some considerable organising by the very competent Andrea, 6 shifts over 3 days of 7-9 barmaids each plus a couple of glamorous hostesses had been arranged to assist the delightful supervisor Carol and her 3-4 regular bar staff.


Erotica T-Girl Bar first shift: left to right, Ria and Stella (hostesses), Mandy, Helena, Andrea (organiser), Amanda, Eve, Jackie, Holly (supervisor), and myself Sue.

After initial nerves and a steep learning curve we soon found ourselves competently pulling pints and chatting with the customers. It wasn't that busy on Friday 18th but on Saturday 19th we did a brisk trade before things quietened again on Sunday 20th. Being in the gallery rather than the main floor didn't help our trade but it seems that the customers were happy with our service. It was tiring and we weren't paid, not even expenses or tips, but it is a tribute to all those who volunteered that most worked over and above their scheduled hours. But what T-Girl can resist being seen and admired in cute outfit? (Yes, we had a uniform of white blouse, black skirt and black court shoes; only the accessories were personalised).

For day 1 I chose a black leather wraparound skirt and satin blouse, for day 2 a short satin skirt with underskirts that billowed out and (ooh la la!) revealed my stocking tops. (Incidentally, so few shops sell stockings these days - the tights revolution is near complete! Like most women, I wear tights all the time now anyway and it's only when there's an event like this that you notice the disappearance of stockings). The outfit on day 2 went down so well that I abandoned what I had previously reserved for day 3 and wore it again (yes, I did wash my blouse and change my stockings!). I found I had to wear high heels at the bar as it was so high that I'd have struggled to serve in flats. But, hey, high heels hold few terrors for me, though being on your feet for hours is the tiring bit no matter what you're wearing. A big thanks to my wonderful friend Angela for lending me both skirts.


Standing in the gallery of the magnificent Great Hall at Olympia in my favourite outfit.

Two friends came to stay with me, Holly Johns and Joanne Stevens, and together we had a great weekend. Obviously, we got a chance to see round the show (strutting down the red-carpeted staircase in our glad rags is something that needed doing more than once) and we were compensated by being given tickets to the Winter Ball on Saturday night. We enjoyed travelling there on the suburban train from home in our fancy outfits, me in my pink ballerina dress, pale pink tights and pink shoes! (pink handbag too), Holly in her very slinky revealing dress and Joanne very cute in her short lacy Goth outfit. Maybe pink frills stood out a bit in a club full of people chiefly in uniforms, black latex and suspenders but, hey, conformity in a club of nonconformists is just wrong!

The public were very enthusiastic about drinking at our bar and the compliments were very uplifting. Our best support came from two traders from the next door antiques fair who latched onto us outside and took Holly, Joanne, Stella, and me to an excellent Lebanese restaurant round the corner, Chez Marcelle. They forgot to give us plates but we were so hungry and the food was so good that we didn't notice! It also gave the kids at the next table something to gawp at!

What an extraordinary experience! Although we were all tired and our feet hurt I think we all agreed we'd be up for it next year. Carol, our supervisor, said we were a delight to work with (as was she and her team of regulars). Word is that the event organisers were so pleased with us that we're very likely to be invited again next year, only this time we'll be on the main floor which should boost our sales and profile.

And I think we're all agreed that, although not entirely a serious thing, the T-Girl bar showed that transgendered people are personable, reliable, hard-working, decent, friendly and humane, which was the whole point for many of us. I think a lot of people at the event left better informed about what being trans is like (it's not just about dressing up as some kind of fetish). And the main thing is that we all had fun (and got fat on the sausages being fried up opposite us). It was also a chance to make new friends. And when a team of people who hardly know each other work so well together you know that friendships are going to blossom.

I'd just like to say particular thanks to Joanne who is a sweetie (and helped me with preparing an art show on the Monday), Holly for her strength and inspiration (she went on to go to work as a woman the next week), Stella for being glamorous and entertaining (and chauffeuring us), Helena for being the superstar of the alternative London scene (and for buying me a sweet little cake for my birthday), Andrea for organising us, Carol for supervising us and being lovely and thanks to all the other girls (and boy) there for making it one of the most memorable weekends ever, and the other traders, performers and visitors who were so supportive. 


Me and 'my' girls, Holly and Joanne. You'd buy a drink from these lovely ladies, wouldn't you?


Well, that was my first job as Sue. Maybe it'll help land me a permanent job somewhere!

Sue x

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